When most people think of leadership, what often comes to mind are stereotypical images of elected officials, CEO’s, military generals or something of the like. All of those are accurate depictions of leadership but most of the world’s leaders don’t fit that profile. Instead they are found working at the grassroots level of their communities, in roles that don’t usually get much credit, fame, or notoriety.
Here in Tallahassee there are hundreds if not thousands of people who exhibit leadership skills in these types of positions. It happens in companies, at non-profits, in local schools and various other organizations that make up the social fabric of Tallahassee. Here at the Chamber, we believe it is important to empower citizen leaders who want to see our community thrive and that’s why we have one of the best Leadership programs in the country as part of our organization.
This year, Leadership Tallahassee is conducting program days for its 37th class. For nearly four decades, LT has been a beacon for those who want to do well for the community and need a place to grow as a leader. When the program began, there was a clear need to identify future generations of servant leaders with a passion for Tallahassee burning in their heart. The program has been wildly successful at bringing those type of people together to learn about our community in an environment that both challenges and inspires its participants.
As an affiliated program of the Chamber, LT has a close and important relationship with the business community. This goes back to a fundamental belief of the Chamber that was certainly present at the founding of LT; The business community will succeed when the community is made more prosperous. With that mantra in mind, LT continues to bring together some of the most passionate, persistent and impactful leaders from across the community. The strength of the program lies in the diversity of backgrounds and beliefs that shape the lives of its members. With each new class this becomes more apparent and it certainly doesn’t happen by accident.
Being a graduate of LT (Class 32 aka Best Class Ever) and a staff member of the Chamber, I can say with some authority that our leadership programs are produced by some of the most caring and dedicated people I know. Our LT team, Barbara Boone, Amanda Wiggins and Rebekah Dennis work year-round to deliver top notch programming for our current class, alumni and even prospective applicants. The efforts they make to cultivate a thriving community of leaders is second to none. There are leadership programs like ours all around the country, but I imagine that most don’t measure up to the spirit and commitment of our LT alumni.
A big part of that comes back to how our team members recruit applicants into the program each year. Word of mouth is critically important and many alumni and board members recommend folks all the time, but one of the best methods for turning the curious mind into an LT applicant is the annual Opportunity Tallahassee program day. “OT” as we call it at home base, is a one-day crash course in all things Tallahassee. This program is aimed at giving attendees a concentrated dose of what the Leadership Tallahassee class program is like. This week, the LT team hosted the 2019 edition featuring a a packed agenda and a sold-out crowd.
The 2019 OT program featured stops at a wide variety of locations including the Tallahassee International Airport, the Dwellings transitional housing community, Altrua Global Solutions, the Grove Museum, and the Consolidated Dispatch Agency to name a few. The agenda was devised by a committed group of LT alumni who have spent months pouring over the details and generating ideas for our staff. That works paid off big because this year there were over forty attendees who participated in OT. This group spent a full day venturing across the community to get a crash course in what makes Tallahassee such a special place to build a life. Once again, the feedback of those who participated was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, there has been so much demand for this program that the LT staff is considering an additional program day next Spring.
The reason that Opportunity Tallahassee is such a popular program and good filter for LT applicants is because for many, it is a first step towards becoming a better leader. Those who are willing to take the first step are more likely to take the next and the funny thing about leadership is that each new step is a little bit harder to make. To be an effective leader on the local level means you must keep showing up. You must engage with your fellow community members and you’ll certainly have to get over feeling uncomfortable. LT is about creating a community of people who are always willing to take the next step and the reason it exists is to help those who want to.
The emerging leaders who attended Opportunity Tallahassee this week have taken an important step towards becoming a more rounded and better-informed community member. Like many who have come before them, there is likely an opportunity for them to lead various organizations and initiatives in the future. Our hope is that the work we do through Leadership Tallahassee will help to identify and encourage those who want to take the next step. Often, those who want to lead just need the opportunity to do so. Our aim is to make sure they can find it.